Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Should Have Been DC’s 52 Title Relaunch

As some may know, DC Comics has recently launched or relaunched 52 titles in an attempt to attract new readers. It is an effort, sadly, destined to fail. The new comics have several important failings. One – and this is the problem DC has perennially had – is cutting away too much past continuity. Suggesting that 60+ years of comic books never happened is just bad business. The second biggest problem is not enough comic book pros are involved. With a few recognizable exceptions, most of the talent involved on titles is new and no one has been in the industry for more than 20 years. There is a lot of untapped veteran talent out there DC chose to ignore. The third biggest problem has been a focus on promoting new minority heroes, while ignoring a significant number of characters who are proven sellers. The fourth biggest problem is that comic books are still too expensive. Just accept that you’re never going to make money off of comic books again and deal with them as they truly are – copyright-protected treatments for future blockbuster movie characters. Drop those prices back down to $3.50, while adding some more pages. The fifth biggest problem is over-reliance on crossovers and big multi-part events to sell comics. Good stories, art, and characters should sell comics. Splitting up the 52 titles throughout DC’s history would show fans that the days of big company-wide events are over now.

If I was put in charge of this project, the relaunch would have gone something like this…

Golden Age Titles
#1 More Fun Comics. This book will be a little different from the others. It will be a 30-page book selling for just $3, headlined by a 7-page Dr. Occult serial set in 1938, and followed by 6-8 3-4 page brand new humor strips. The newspaper comics are disappearing, so attract some of that talent to comic books. This is your “bridge” comic to get people reading who don’t normally buy comic books and aren’t interested in superheroes.
#2 Detective Comics. A 42-page book of three 14-page detective story serials, all set in 1940. Speed Saunders, Bruce Nelson, and Slam Bradley all tracking investigating crimes, solving mysteries, or just exploring the criminal underworld.
#3 Action Comics. A 42-page book of three 14-page adventure story serials, all set in 1944. The first serial features Superman (in his late 20s, able to lift 50 tons, nigh-invulnerable, able to run 100 MPH or make 300’ standing high jumps) crusading against criminals like Johnny Aesop, Black Patch, and the Trickster while dealing with the fact that Lois Lane now knows his secret identity. The second serial features Tex Thompson, alias Americommando (with his flying cape) fighting with the U.S. Armed Forces in the Pacific Theater. The third serial features Zatara the tuxedoed magician, battling occult forces at home, or confronting the awakening god Pan abroad.
#4 Smash Comics. A 42-page book of three 14-page adventure story serials, all set in 1942. The first serial is Espionage, starring Black X, a secret agent rooting out enemy agents in the Orient. The second serial is Hugh Hazzard & Bozo the Robot, repelling Nazi attacks on the Americas. The third serial is Invisible Justice, with Kent Thurston using his magic invisibility hood to exact justice against Nazi spies.
#5 All-American Comics. A 42-page book with two 15-page adventure story serials and 1 12-page humor serial, all set in 1944. The first serial features Green Lantern, with Alan Scott using his magic ring to fight mobsters in New York City, or to fight monsters like Solomon Grundy, with the help of his sidekick “Doiby” Dickles. The second serial features Atom, with Al Pratt using his fighting prowess and extraordinarily (though not superhuman) strong punches to fight crime and solve mysteries in New Haven, Massachusetts. Because both heroes are members of the Justice Society of America, they may even be working together or separately on the same case. The third serial is Scribbly & the Red Tornado, about a 13-year old cartoonist, trying to balance work, school, and the knowledge that his crazy landlady thinks she’s a superhero.
#6 Adventure Comics. A 42-page book of three 14-page adventure story serials, all set in 1943. The first serial features Sandman (Wesley Dodds in his yellow and purple fighting togs) and his sidekick Sandy thwarting unusual crimes in unusual settings like Mammoth Circus, Gentleman Jack’s prison hideout, or Little Joe Grolich’s pants-making sweatshop. The second serial features Starman, Ted Knight, using his Gravity Rod to stop criminals throughout the U.S. using a hi-tech advantage over the police. The third serial features Hourman, Rex Tyler, using his strength-enhancing Miraclo pills and the aid of the Minute Men of America radio club for kids to battle mobsters throughout New England. All three heroes are members of the Justice Society of America and may be working together or separately on the same cases.
#7 Whiz Comics. A 42-page book of two 21-page adventure story serials, both set in 1953. The first serial features Captain Marvel, but now Billy Batson is 21 years old, studying journalism in college, but distracted by being an already-world-famous radio celebrity, having Beautia Sivana back in his life as a love interest for both Billy and Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher showing up to recruit Captain Marvel for spy missions in the Cold War, trolls making mischief, and old enemies like the Black Magician showing up for revenge. The second serial features Ibis the Invincible, ancient Egyptian arch-mage, defending our world from an inter-dimensional war.
#8 Flash Comics. A 42-page book of two 15-page adventure story serials and one 12-page humor serial, all set in 1948. The first serial features the Flash, a battle-weary Jay Garrick hoping to settle down with his pregnant wife Joan, but has too dangerous and active a rogues gallery, with the likes of the Black Templar, the Fiddler, and Dr. Lexon. The second serial features Hawkman, Carter Hall, and Hawkwoman, his wife Shiera, as they split their time between encountering magical dangers while pursuing archaeology across the Americas and engaging in a running conflict with their archenemy, the Ghost. Because Flash and Hawkman are both members of the Justice Society of America, they may be working together or separately on the same case. The third serial features Johnny Thunder. Recently dumped both by the Justice Society of America and the Black Canary, Johnny is on the rebound and proposes to his old girlfriend Daisy Darling. Can Daisy accept Johnny’s unusual baggage, a 7-year old adopted daughter named Peachy and a magical thunderbolt that makes Johnny’s wishes come true?
#9 Master Comics. A 42-page book of two 21-page adventure story serials, both set in 1949. The first features Captain Marvel Jr. Freddy Freeman is now 17-years old, back in school, earning money as a copyboy at a newspaper, and taking a romantic interest in fellow superhero Mary Marvel. As Captain Marvel Jr., Freddy does good deeds and thwarts the schemes of Sivana Jr. The second features Bulletman, Jim Barr, veteran crime-fighter who has tried to settle down and become a police captain, while his wife Susan has given up being Bulletgirl to raise their infant daughter and adopted 6-year old son and care for the family dog. But Jim keeps finding it easier to solve police matters by donning his old hi-tech helmet that enhances his strength, magnetically protects him from harm, and propels him through the air at the speed of sound.

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